Unicaja had a strong start for the 2008-09 Euroleague season by beating Le Mans 84-79 in Malaga, Spain in Group A on Wednesday night. Unicaja was the first team to register a win in Group A and visits Olympiacos next week. Meanwhile, Le Mans hosts Cibona in Game 2. Boniface Ndong led the winners with 14 points. Marcus Haislip added 13, Robert Archibald had 11 while Jiri Welsch got 10 for Unicaja. David Bluthenthal had 19 points for Le Mans to lead all scorers. Dewarick Spencer added 14, Brian Chase got 13 while Joao Paulo Batista contributed 10 for the guests. Spencer and Batista shined in the first quarter to give Le Mans a 10-15 edge. Unicaja found its go-to guys in Ndong and Archibald to get a 38-33 halftime edge. Bluthenthal singlehandedly allowed Le Mans to get its last lead, 46-47, late in the third quarter. Le Mans got within 62-59 with 7 minutes remaining but three-pointers by Thomas Kelati, Carlos Cabezas and Haislip allowed Unicaja to seal the outcome to get a well-deserved win.
Bluthenthal was first to score for Le Mans but Haislip quickly answered a three-pointer on a two-on-two situation with
Kelati. Spencer and Haislip traded bombs from downtown for a 6-5 Unicaja edge. Cabezas shined with his trademark driving
layup but Pape Badiane matched it with a five-meter jumper that Spencer followed with an off-balance layup, making Unicaja
call timeout at 8-9. Carlos Jimenez stepped up with free throws but Bluthenthal buried an uncontested triple to beat
Unicaja's full-court pressure while a three-point play by Batista gave Le Mans a five-point lead, 10-15. Ndong
tried to change things with free throws that Spencer bettered with a layup-plus-foul. Ndong beat the guests' zone defense
with a jumper, igniting a 7-0 run in which Joseph Gomis had 5 points, including a corner triple for a 19-18 Unicaja edge. Alain Koffi sank a jumper that Ndong matched with a put-back layup to fix a 21-20 score after 10 minutes.
Badiane had a huge block on Omar Cook that allowed Koffi to run the other way and finish the play with an alleyoop dunk.
Welsch answered from downtown for a 24-22 Unicaja edge. Batista fed Chase for an easy basket that Vitor Faverani matched
with a baseline jumper. Koffi kept pacing Le Mans with a big move in the low post but Ndong put Unicaja back ahead, 28-26.
Batista dished an outstanding assist to Spencer and soon added a free throw to restore a 28-29 Le Mans edge. Cook downed a
three-pointer but an unstoppable Batista tied it again at 31-31. Spencer and Archibald traded free throws, while Koffi
provided yet another highlight with a dunk on Cabezas. Archibald kept pacing Unicaja with a tip-in that Haislip followed with
foul shots. Le Mans kept struggling to score while an easy layup by Archibald kept the hosts ahead, 38-33, at halftime.
Archibald stayed on fire after the break with a two-handed put-back dunk and a steal that allowed Kelati to get a fast break layup. Bluthenthal took over with a driving layup and soon added a long two-pointers to bring Le Mans as close as 42-37. Unicaja had troubles to score while a red hot Bluthenthal sank a seven-meter bomb. Welsch stepped up with a layup that Archibald followed with a dunk off to give Unicaja some fresh air at 46-40. Badiane made free throws that Chase followed with a floating layup in a 0-7 run that Bluthenthal capped with a huge triple coming off a screen for a 46-47 Le Mans edge. Haislip shined with a high-flying driving layup while Welsch struck from downtown but Maleye Ndoye got Le Mans within 51-49. Ndong followed foul shots with a close jumper to restore a six-point Unicaja lead, 55-49. Diot stepped up with 4 quick points but Gomis scored for a 57-53 Unicaja edge after 30 minutes.
Jimenez had a power dunk right at the start of the fourth quarter but Badiane matched it with a put-back layup. Jimenez got the crowd involved with a layup-plus-foul to make it a seven-point game, 62-55. Ndoye rescued Le Mans with an easy basket while Spencer banked in a jumper for a 62-59 deficit. Ndong dunked it and Gomis sank free throws but Bluthenthal nailed a running jumper to keep Le Mans in the game. Kelati struck from downtown, as Le Mans called timeout at 69-61 with 6 minutes remaining. Batista and Welsch traded layups while Archibald gave Unicaja a double-digit lead, 73-63. Batista and Chase took over with back-to-back layups but Cabezas buried a key triple for a 76-67 Unicaja margin with 3 minutes to go. Le Mans was running out of time but Chase followed a three-pointer with a layup for a 76-72 score with 56 seconds remaining. Haislip sealed the outcome with a triple, as the guests could not overcome the deficit.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008